“It’s like even when you smile your eyes are still sad.” I’ll never forget that afternoon, sitting in the dance room at our high school surrounded by the other varsity cheerleaders, friends as much as we could be. I’m not sure how or why the subject of my smile came up… All I remember is a half a dozen faces all turning towards me as my eyes filled with tears, and the crush of hugs from well meaning girls. I couldn’t explain the sadness to them, I hadn’t really figured it out for myself, but even at 16 I knew something was not right.
That year, my Junior year in High School, was a strange year for me. By all accounts I should have been happy – I was doing well in school, had a great group of friends, I could finally drive, had a good job with a boss I loved, cheerleading was great, I was active in musical theater which had always been a passion… But I remember feeling lonely, sad, for apparently no reason. I wasn’t really familiar with the term “depression” at that age, nor would I have imagined a 16 year old would suffer from it. After time, the sadness simply faded on its own and life took on a more normal tone.
There were other times over the years where I would notice a sadness I couldn’t explain, a desire to sit alone in the dark, or just sleep, sleep and sleep and sleep. For a girl who is plagued fairly regularly by insomnia, this desire for never ending sleep was strange. I would always force a smile and make myself go out with friends hoping to shake myself out of this… funk. I was always paranoid that someone would notice that I wasn’t quite right. The words of my high school friend haunted me. “It’s like even when you smile your eyes are still sad.”
Finally, several years ago, the whole thing came to a head. I was truly in a bad place, employed at a job I hated with a completely insane boss, I had gained about 60 pounds, things with TheBoy were… strained, in short I was miserable. Yet, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to do anything about it. Nor could I (would I) talk to anyone about how I was feeling, I have always been a private person. I don’t like to discuss emotions or feelings.
One afternoon I was sitting in my Dr.’s office, there for my annual exam, chatting casually about the things that were going on in my life. Again I’m fuzzy on the details but all I know is one minute we’re laughing about something and the next I am sobbing uncontrollably while my Dr. looked alternately sympathetic and concerned for my mental state. When I had managed to pull myself together she handed me two prescriptions, one was the renewal of my birth control and the second was for an anti-depressant.
Now, I have never been one of those people who feel like anti-depressants are bad. I’ve known many, many people who have benefited from them. But that was THEM and this was ME and I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that at 24 I was so depressed that I needed drugs to fix it. Clearly I had just had a bad day and my Dr. over-reacted. I tucked that prescription in a drawer (I think I was embarrassed that TheBoy might see it) and tried to forget the whole thing ever happened.
A few days later, something happened that turned my whole little world upside down and in the midst of the ensuing melt-down I remembered that prescription. The next day I had it filled. I rationalized that I wasn’t depressed; I was just going through a rough patch. What’s the harm in taking a few pills to get you through the rough patches? By the middle of the second week I knew I had done the right thing. It was like a haze had lifted and the real me, the one who had been dormant for so long, was waking up.
I think those of you who have been around this here blog long enough can see how this story ends… I quit my craptastic job and (finally) found another, went on a two year journey to lose the weight (which is honestly an on going struggle), and generally just went on a self-improvement binge. I was determined to be happy. While I was mildly ashamed to admit being on the anti-depressants I swear to you they helped. Immensely. I stayed on them for almost a year before I felt strong enough to continue on my own. Life has pretty much gone along hunky dory for the past several years. And I’m proud of what I accomplished.
Though in the last weeks, when things are going better than I could possibly imagine, I’ve noticed a return of the desire for never-ending sleep, and a general inability to motivate myself to do what I need to do, what I should WANT to do. And y’all this clearly makes no sense. TheBoy and I just bought a house which is awesome – but I can’t seem to make myself be properly excited about it. And there are even more exciting things happening (!) but again I can’t seem to muster the appropriate level of cheer.
"It’s like even when you smile your eyes are still sad.” I guess I wish I could know for sure if what I am feeling is just stress, a normal case of the blues, or if it is something more… Because I sure would like to snap out of it in time to enjoy all the wonderful things that are happening!